Legends from our own lunchtimes

Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Sunday Walk.
Somerviller to very close to Nancy.

For seven years we’ve been meaning to visit the village of St-Nicolas-du-Port, famous for its monster basilica named for the patron saint of boatmen, pawnbrokers and at least a hundred other just and worthy causes including of course, children. Even though he's THAT St Nicholas, there’s not a hint of Christmas anywhere to be seen.

This is or at least was a proper boatman’s port, with an apparently wonderful brewery turned museum (did I mention that in his spare time St Nick is the patron saint of brewers?) which we thought given museums in France make a point of being open on weekends, we would finally get to visit.  Since our mooring was not much more than a kilometre from the Cathedral and a not much more to the museum and the day was fine and sunny, we were rather looking forward to the brewery tour, and even promised ourselves a lemonade on the way back, beer not being entirely to our taste.

We’ve seen signs like the one that greeted us many times before.  “Open every day” it said, “but today it would be better if you came back in a few hours’ time”. 

Perhaps we could have whiled away a few hours at a cafe, but they were all Sunday busy.  We could also have waited in the cathedral as it was Sunday deserted.  We figured however that by re-opening time our desire to visit the museum would surely have diminished.    Instead we spent a pleasant hour or so wandering back through the stork conservation area, watching the monster birds on their nests, before drifting down the canal a bit till we found a shady spot for the rest of the afternoon.   The brewery museum will just have to wait.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Signs that we may be taking things for granted.
Parroy to Somerviller

1) We join the queue to buy some bread and a chocolate eclair for morning tea from the little grocery van which stops outside the caravan park, and we leave the minute we are back aboard.

2) We stop at Einville-au for coffee and to consume said eclair, but ignore its cobbled streets and worn buildings oozing the patina of centuries, its fountain and the tractors parked outside the houses, preferring instead to have a quiet snooze until lunch time when we devour the bread with a bit of smoked salmon. 

3) We move on to Sommerviller with its renovated perfection, it’s georgeous window boxes, it’s picture perfect streets, but we sit under a tree and read, watching children fish as the sun goes down.

4) In the course of the day, having passed dense forests and factories in ruin and rolling fields full of monster haystacks and sunflowers and fresh mown hay, but we take a photograph of a topiary chicken.


Friday, July 29, 2016

Hey hey, we’re underway!

Figuring that a doctor would only poke at the tender bits and ask if it hurt, I woke and gingerly did the same.   When nothing hurt as much as it did yesterday we took that as a bit of a sign that we should move on so we set about doing the little things that should have been done when we first arrived, like installing the spare gas bottle.   A smart person, having lain about for a few days doing not much may have taken a little more care when moving a thirty kilogram bottle at full stretch, but as it turns out all remaining stomach tenderness disappeared with the tiniest little twitch of the lower back.

It didn’t matter. We were leaving no matter what.

So biting firmly on a bit of old shoe just as they did in the cowboy movies, we gently nudged Mr P awake and drifted down to Parroy (confusingly perhaps pronounced pa-wah) and moored right next to the playground at the camping ground, where the skies clouded over, just enough rain came to keep anyone intent on using the see-saw indoors and the tractors away from their harvest, leaving us in complete tranquilty.  Under the circumstances there was nothing we could do but while away the afternoon leisurely, reading, swatting flies and snacking on paracetamol.


Being horizontal

Let’s start by saying we didn’t go anywhere today.

We are properly farewelled, of course, several times over but there was one niggling little pain in the side or tummy perhaps that wouldn’t go away.   Jacques even thought he should take me to the Doctor today if it didn’t improve and he was probably right, and we agreed we’d give it till this afternoon to make a decision. 

It’s funny how reticent we were to make that decision, the old “if we were at home” test suggested that we should, but the sheer thought of trying to explain some symptoms and medical history in a language in which we were not adept, even through an interpreter, gave a lot of incentive to lay low for the day.  Despite the temptation of the lock staring us down not a hundred metres away, we sat or lay and snoozed the day away and improved just enough to think things are on the mend and to be grateful that thus far in eight years of extended absences from home we haven’t needed medical assistance.

Steady improvement overnight will definitely see us off in the morning though.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Through the lock we go.

We had promised Ariel and Michael we’d show them the ropes before we left, but by the time we’d done that and taken them up a lock we were ready for lunch so we thought we’d best go down again and sort out that little problem before going further.  Then it was after lunch time and the inclination we had felt in the morning to get underway had faded somewhat.

The little remaining inclination dissolved entirely when Maggie suggested we join them just one more time tonight and the prospect of another evening spent under fairy lights and grape vines seemed like an entirely perfect reason for not leaving. 

We figure we’ve been through a couple of lcoks today, so we must be cruising.   Sure we’ve been to Lagarde before, but we’ve been lots of places before.   One more (slightly blurry) night can’t hurt.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A housewife’s work

We’ve both suddenly got the urge to move on.   “Suddenly” I suppose is a relevant term, since we’ve been away from Aus for almost four weeks, and the term “urge” is a bit of an overstatement too, but don’t be surprised if tomorrow, or perhaps the day after we write from another village.

We returned the car today, and with it went our tie with the shore.  Then we looked around a discovered that we hadn’t actually properly unpacked, so while one of us snoozed the afternoon heat away, the other busied herself packing, tidying and perhaps just doing the one last load of washing or seven to get things ship-shape for our forthcoming voyage to who knows where.  Thankfully our list of things to make and repair remains safely stored when we left the boat last year in a place we were sure we would remember, but don’t.  Therefore there are no repairs required before we leave!

All that was left was a farewell dinner, so we coerced Maggie and Jacques aboard, to cement our decision.  The trouble with farewell dinners is that they are quite fun.  I think I feel the urge to stay just one more night coming on.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Death by Tractor

It’s not really death as such, but one can’t help but get the feeling that one false move could result in a very nasty ending when one ventures onto any road at the moment.  If it’s not hay making time, it’s certainly the time when there’s some sort of contest going on to see who can fit the most hay onto the smallest tractor, and drive the furthest with the least amount of clearance between load and immovable objects.  

If you’ve never met a four metre wide load coming at you straddling a three and a half metre wide road, you probably won’t have any means of identifying with just how improbable it is that one can actually arrive at one’s intended destination let alone do so unscathed.

Since it was the last full day with the car, we entered the contest happily, shopping at Sarrebourg for an extra level of difficulty, then returning quietly from whence we came to while away the evening, oblivous to the tractors bouncing into the dusk across the bridge not fifty metres away.

They do go away at night, to where we have no idea, only to return at first light fresh and bouncing and ready to take new loads into the new day, which is more than we can say for ourselves sometimes.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

On any Sunday.

Did I hint yesterday that working on someone else’s problem was going to be painless?  That was clearly before a morning spent upside down while wedged into tiny spaces and bailing noxious goo from the bilge in full contortion mode.   It did bring back all sorts of memories of that wondrous first month aboard our “Joyeux”, some of them happily suppressed until now.   There was even a fleeting moment I confess, when thoughts of the car sitting idle a few metres away and images of the road out of town flashed temptingly before my eyes. 

But there’s something about being able to dismantle someone else’s toilet, declaring it beyond one’s ability to repair before handing them the parts and retiring for lunch that is entirely more satisfying than being unable to repair something belonging to oneself. By afternoon tea time the list of things in that category had grown to such a magnitude that one of us at least was feeling very satisfied indeed.  

On the other hand the list of things to be checked and tested and removed from lockers had diminished to the extent that we could take our leave, and be showered just in time, as it happened for the arrival of some not terribly retiring Kiwi mates in their appropriately named vessel; “Winedown”.

With their very capable assistance, that’s exactly what we did.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Some days are diamonds.
back to Lagarde!

And some days we go to the supermarket.  

We did have a little bit of boating fun this morning as we drove the two locks and four kilometres back to our little port for a teensy bit of maintenance.  

It’s our water you see, it went off while we were away.  Bit of a Nuisance.  Bad.  Smelly.  Yuk.   Not a big problem unless we want to drink, or eat, or bathe.  That’ll teach us for forgetting to turn the hot water off while we were away but not to worry, a few fills and empties of the tank and all should be well again.  At least having over the course of the past few years repaired or replaced pretty much everything aboard, some things twice, we have an idea of what is connected to where, and problems of this nature are a bit of a bother, but quite simple to resolve.  

A bit of a bother but simple, unlike those facing Mike and Aerial who we finally met this morning.   They are of that courageous breed the like of which refuses anaesthetic at the dentist, or buys boats in strange countries sight unseen, there’s quite a bit to be done and discovered on their boat, and no instruction manual.  Tomorrow might be quite fun for us as we poke around helping them unbolt things and finding how they work or why they don’t.  It will be  painless too for us at least, like talking to the dentist while he drills someone else’s molar.  For them?   The last we saw of them this evening they were off looking for anaesthetic.

Friday, July 22, 2016

We’re back…

Dave had all but promised us that the drive through Belgium would be much quicker than usual, after all it was a Friday and he thought that pretty much everyone would be at the beach.   Things turned out to be almost as he described too, with nary a snarl on the Antwerp ring road, and a almost a jog on the outskirts of Brussels where we’ve found a few hours of free parking on previous attempts to cross the city.

It wasn’t until almost through Luxembourg, our third country in as many hours that the first of the warning signs alerting us to an accident on the motorway ahead in France gave us a just a hint of what was to come.  The nice lady in the dashboard who turns the GPS maps knew about it as soon as we did, and began recalculating our estimated time of arrival.   At first the delay was a mere thirty minutes, no make that ninety, and perhaps we’d better go the long way round she thought.  The problem was that she didn’t just tell us about some secret traffic avoiding route, she obviously had also told at least a fifth of those who were by this time nose to tail in a winding snail across the landscape.

We made it back to the motorway in time to discover another accident ahead, and another detour, this one more sinister as it was long past the time that sensible people would have stopped for a quick snack and a bit of a stretch, yet every instruction took us to within a few kilometres of a village and the hope of sustenance, before whisking us away in a direction where clearly there was none.   Suddenly though, we were home.

Back to a place where farmyards are not neat as a pin, where no one will make a fortune selling paint, where electricity is shamelessly carried in big black lines that arc across the sky, where grass grows tall and unkempt.  Our holiday is over.  Tonight we'll celebrate Maggie’s birthday, tomorrow we’ll think about what happens next.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Finding Max.

When we were kids we’d go to the beach on holiday with the family and we’d eat as though we’d never seen food before, and sleep as though we hadn’t slept in a year.  “It’s the sea air”, my parents would say as though running ourselves ragged in and out of the water and up and down the beach from sunrise to sunset was entirely without impact.

Therefore after finding Dave and Ria moored in the salt water on Gravalingenmeer and enjoying a hearty lunch in the sun, a long walk or two and a cycle into the village with them, it can’t be a surprise that the “sea air” got to us, and we managed to get some serious horizontal time mid afternoon.

 More sensible people than we probably would have been making their way a little further south, but  the way we figured it the good times were rolling and, if we get a bit lucky with the traffic around Antwerp and Brussels  tomorrow we should be back as planned anyway.  So we made little sleeping nest for ourselves in the good ship Max’s cockpit and set out to enjoy the night.  

There’s something about watching the sun going down through the rigging of a thousand yachts, the joy of drifting off to sleep while the breeze gently whistles and clangs through them that evokes memories of a lifetime filled with good times in other places far away.  There’s no need to be moving to have a great day out on a boat!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Where it all began.

While we were so close, we thought we just might return to the scene of the crime, the place where almost exactly thirty-four years ago something clicked and we realised that it is possible to live and travel the length and breadth of the greater part of Europe on its waterways.   It’s quite amazing to think that the little spark that ignited that day has been with us all that time, yet in all our travels we’d never returned to the scene of the crime.  Until today.

We joined Maarty on his workday commute, discovering in the process that riding a bike in peak hours is quite different to driving.  Instead of slowing to a crawl, the bikes speed up, gathering more and more cycles and seemingly more and more pace as the distance to the station reduces.  We become a massive endless river of movement with each new intersection adding impossibly to the crowd, yet there is no jostling, barely a ringing of bell.   Suddenly at the station we are riding at least half a dozen abreast and the path leads to a set of STAIRS.   Like lemmings we dismount and follow the seething mob down into what looks like a modern bike shop, but turns out to be a five story high “bike factory”, a bike park with multi-height racks storing thousands of bikes (at no cost), electronically monitored and secured neatly in numbered spaces.

Amsterdam of course was fabulous, and we walked until we could walk no more, then ate, then drank, then walked some more all the while avoiding bikes which have grown in numbers by at least five fold since our last visit.  We intend to return sooner rather than later so there was no need to try to see everything, although we have this niggling feeling since making our escape from the bike factory that just possibly “now we’ve seen everything"!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

No rest for the wicked.
Bad Rothenfelde to Utrecht

When we broke the news to Vanessa and Maarty that we may well be popping in for a visit, not only did they feign enthusiasm, but they also arranged time off work AND hired some bikes for us so they could properly show us the town, and what at town they live in.

We had wondered about the generous portions of cod and chips (with mayonnaise because that’s how it’s done in Holland) they ordered for lunch, but we needn’t have.   By the time we’d circumnavigated the city by bike, crossed it on foot, then circled it by pedal boat (called a waterbike, because anything with pedals is called a bike in these parts), we had not only burned off every excess kilojoule from lunch, we’d also made a big dent in yesterday’s dinner, which we’d consider to be no mean feat at all.

Utrecht for those who think that the Netherlands only has cities ending in “dam” is its fourth largest city, a major transport hub with buildings dating back to the middle ages.   It actually made the top ten list a few years ago of the world’s great unsung cities, but I suspect the humming we heard as we wandered the ancient streets and waterways was a whole new song in the making.  Of course it helps when the weather magically turns in the space of a day, from a chilly sixteen to a cloudless thirty degrees, but none the less we have marked this place as one where we must spend more time when next we return.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Sunset and Schnitzel.
Aabenraa to Bad Rothenfelde

After lingering over breakfast for so long we almost had to stay another day, we finally dragged ourselves into the car having just then decided in which direction we would head (Holland). We'd  chosen some accomodation for the night entirely at random as is our custom, and therefore we set off for Bad Rothenfelde in Germany, neatly bisecting what would have been an unpleasantly lengthy drive by stopping somewhere we had never been before, nor even heard of for that matter.

When we arrived we thought there was some sort of geriatric medical supply convention happening.  Every kind of wheelchair, walker, crutch, cane, brace medical appliance that has ever existed was being demonstrated by someone in town.  For a time the only able bodied people we saw apart from ourselves were pushing those who weren’t.  We felt as though we’d arrived in Pleasantville.    Then we discovered that “Bad” in German does not mean “wicked” or “really cool”.  It actually translates to “bath” or “spa”, and it would quite accurate to say that the place is crawling with those who would, post treatment, hope to over-run it!

There’s an extraordinarily curious and ancient salt evaporator wall contraption running through the town, nine metres high of timber and thatch.  Although apparently no longer used for commercial salt production the spa industry apparently relies on the saline pools it generates, explaining it's impeccable maintenance and continued prominence in the town.

Even in a spa town one has to eat.  With our mono-lingual skills tested to the extreme, faced with a strange menu and a busy waitress assisting by badly feigning patience while simultaneously watching something on the ceiling and tapping her pencil on her pad, we ordered the schnitzel not quite prepared for the sheer volume of food which would arrive.   They’d obviously heard we were coming, killed the fatted calf and put the whole thing on our plates.  We did eat all of it, but could have done with a set of wheels of our own to get us back to our hotel.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Far Superior.
A ferry, a bridge a marina or two and Denmark’s Triangle.Region.

We aren’t sure when it occurred but sometime in the middle of our super sightseeing road trip today we’ve decided it’s time to move on, perhaps before Jørn and Birgit run out of food, perhaps before we wear out our welcome, but mostly because we have had the sort of dream visit that we really don’t want to end.  Through the generosity of our hosts, we’ve come to know a small part of this country just about as well as it is possible to know anything in a week and we like it a lot.

Perhaps the photo above is a fitting analogy for our impressions.  While other larger, louder brasher countries shout about themselves, telling us they are “Far Superior”, Denmark and it’s people just sit there like a little polished gem waiting to be discovered, quietly confident in itself, themselves and in their own way trusting that they will be discovered only by those who will appreciate them for what they are.

We certainly do, and can only hope we’ve been on the sort of behaviour that will have us allowed back at some time in the not too distant future.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Speak to me.
Flensburg and Krusmolle

I don’t think we have ever before been invited to lunch by friends accompanied by the advice “Perhaps you should bring your passports in case there is a control at the border”. 

It’s not that there is anything particularly special about crossing a border, but the concept of doing so for lunch is not one that is familiar to most from our continent which actually doesn’t have a border that can be crossed even if one wanted to, unless one counts perhaps popping down to Tweed Heads from Coolangatta.  In that event, even in the most authentic ethnic restaurant there is nothing to fear with regards to communication.  There is nothing that can’t be solved by simply pointing at the menu and ordering “a number seven with lychees”. 

Here though we were speaking in English with our Danish family in Germany in an Italian Restaurant with the exception of ourselves, all of our company able to seamlessly switch to any or all of those tongues without so much as a blink or a stutter.   Even when Birgit without thinking addressed our Italian waiter in English, he having already greeted us in Danish, read the menu in Italian and translated it to German, simply ignored the apparent stumble and replied in the only language we truly understand.

We must try harder! 

One thing we could understand in any languages was that it was a seriously good day to be sitting over a long lunch snug indoors, looking out over the not so cheery harbour, for once with no thought at all of wanting to join those sailing happily out to sea with their umpteen layers of wet and cold weather gear.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Red Carpet.
Graasten and Sønderborg

Since Princess Mary’s summer palace is barely fifteen minutes from where we are staying we thought we should see what we could do to fulfil the Great Grandmother’s request to pass on a message.    

Actually we knew that her Mother in Law, the good Queen herself would be arriving and thought it would be remiss of us were we to miss an opportunity to be present at the little civic reception held to welcome her here for her holiday.    In the way of small country towns everywhere, the bunting flapped in the breeze while the mayor waited in his finery outside the Town Hall and the little brass band oompahed its way through the wait.  

Actually it wasn’t really the Town Hall.  It had been once and it still had the signs over the door declaring it to be so, if one ignored the word “Restaurant” added beneath in the fine print.  None the less it served the purpose and there was a lovely red carpet rolling away from its door to further the illusion that it was the real deal.   The Queen and Prince listened politely to a speech they must have heard a million times before and we thought the whole thing was simply delightful.

The Queen smiled at us, the octogenarian Prince high-fived a kid in the crowd, Mary wasn’t there but the bloke standing behind us suggested we just knock on the door of the palace, “She’ll probably answer it”, he said, and from what we’ve heard of the family’s life in the village she probably would.

We didn’t though, we snuck off and took a few photos of the old man’s boat instead.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


There is a museum in Aarhus which is called Den Gamle By or at least I think that’s its name.  That’s what the sign on the door said, but on thinking about it that might be Danish for “queue here for tickets” .    We are getting better at recognising some words even if we don’t have a ghost of a chance of pronouncing them, so we queued under the sign anyway and everything seemed to work out.   

The museum is one of those living villages where buildings have been transported from other places and reconstructed.   We’re generally not museum junkies although we thought we’d seen the likes of this on at least four continents.  This one is a bit different though. It is divided into three parts, recreating eras from 17/1800, 1927, and 1974.   The latter two were made even more real by the use of interviews and slices of the lives of the people who actually lived and worked in the buildings.  It did come as something of a shock to discover that we were married in a year that is now so long gone that it has historical value.

Imagine how we felt rediscovering everything that was so familiar it was almost spine tingling.   If we had forgotten tiny details of our lives back then, the curators of the exhibits had not.  Nothing was missed in perfectly recreating the era.  The plumber’s workshop for instance featured all manner of tools in racks, with photographs of somewhat immodest young ladies pinned among them, in curious juxtaposition perhaps with the reconstructed gynaecologist’s surgery just two floors above, itself resplendent with overflowing ashtrays in its waiting room, cigarettes no doubt purchased from the vending machine on the footpath outside. 

While in Denmark the plumbers’ photographs are considered to be simple historical artefacts, it is just possible that they could raise an eyebrow or two in polite company elsewhere, so a photograph of the general store from 1800 will serve to remind us of the day, while those of the plumbers workshop if in fact they exist, will be preserved for the benefit of consenting adults in private.  


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Kongernes Jelling to Koldinghus

Today we mortally wounded a Viking. Not a real one, just a beautiful animation which bled and oozed from his wounds when we jiggled the various weapons embedded in his parts.  Then we had to guess how long it would take for him to die, before the screen gave us a rundown on how he was actually feeling and wether he may survive a day or two before telling us what got him in the end, and it seems something always did.   

Obviously the kiddies using the museum’s interactive displays are made of fairly stern stuff.

I suppose when one is descended from tough Viking stock directly from King Harald Bluetooth himself, a little bit of blood on one’s hands is not a big deal, although I do suspect that for the big fella isn’t resting that easily.  Lending one’s name to a wireless communication system must be a bit of a let down for someone who spent his life building a reputation for rape and pillage and general kingliness.

The beautiful museum recording the foundation of the nation at Kongernes Jelling and the stunningly patched-after-the-fire castle at Kodinghus kept us variously entertained and enlightened all day and to a person we know an awful lot more about Danish history now than we did at breakfast time.  

Of all of the treasures we had seen during the day, from Faberge to Jensen to the fresh brilliance of current students and priceless artefacts from millennia ago, it was the chocolate covered honey cake and coffee at day’s end in the little village of Christiansfeld made from the same recipe since 1783, that we will probably remember most.

That and the very useful fact three days is all the time one has left, after a blow to the knee with an axe.  Blood poisoning will get you in the end. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Furniture Heaven.

Jørn thought we should start with a visit to a furniture store which was laden to the gills and beyond with examples of possibly every classic Danish furniture piece that has ever existed.  What a splendid thought that was, although sadly the price of each item was almost enough to buy a small African country which meant that no matter how strong our desire for any given item, and our desire was at times intense, the credit card stayed safely in the pocket. We did spend several deliriously happy hours wandering and sitting and in the absence of signs warning not to touch, gently fondling the stock, although some may have unkindly described it as pawing, too entranced to take even a photograph.

Just as we thought we could take no more, we were guided gently up the street just a little further to the museum, which celebrated the life of perhaps the best known Danish furniture designer, Hans Wegner, over many levels of a spiral gallery built inside the old town water tower.   I know, that the technically minded would be quick to point out that a spiral gallery only has one level, so to make things abundantly clear, “over many levels connected by a helical stair”.    Minds abuzz with drawings and prototypes and compound curves and marvels in workmanship, we barely noticed the view over the wetlands and the western coast.

On any other day we may have marvelled at the alluvial planes on the edge of the ancient glacier, or at the deepest harbour in Europe, been entranced by the “black sun” so called because of the numbers of migratory birds flying through this World Heritage listed area, but this wasn’t any other day.  

This was the day we’d spent in furniture heaven.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Looks like we’ll sit here for a bit.
Bremen to Aabenraa

With just a few hundred kilometres of our journey remaining, there seemed no reason why we shouldn’t linger just a little in Bremen, so after a very civilised breakfast we set the navigation machine to “show us the town”, eventually finding our way to the headquarters of our favourite mail order marine supplier where we spent a pleasant enough hour or so along with a few hundred Euro to stretch the carrying capacity of our little car to what we thought was its limit.

With a mid afternoon arrival in our sights, we had time for a leisurely lunch time stop as well, and in the process gathered a couple of German boys who were filled with the infectious exuberance of school leavers on a grand adventure.  We had warned them about our space situation but they were undeterred. By carefully folding them and rotating their limbs just so, we managed to get them into a position where we could slide their packs over and through the gaps between bodies and limbs stuck in precarious angles and continued on our way. 

At their drop-off point they were so well compacted that extracting them proved to be an exercise as complex as the installation.  While we couldn’t help but notice a grimace here and there as they unravelled, and the back of one of them seemed to be twisted in a way that it wasn’t before, as they bounded away looking for their next ride their cheery optimism for whatever lay ahead was contagious.

Not that we needed any additional cheeriness or optimism when we arrived at Jørn and Birgit’s place, they have more than enough to go round.  Having been greeted us with a list of things they think we might like to do while we are here, while delivering a warning that they are going away for Christmas, we have a growing suspicion we may not be moving on tomorrow.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Xures to Bremen

One would think that eight hours travelling at a constant one hundred and thirty kilometres per hour in the slow lane on a motorway would not leave much to write home about, and if one did, one would be correct.

It is remarkable though how automotive technology has changed in the last decade or so.   How well we remember during years of commuting on highways at home, being passed by small cars travelling a mere ten percent or so above the relatively miniscule speed limit, with suspensions quivering and bodies floating in the opposite direction barely able to stay in contact with the road.  One hundred and ten was well above the limit of prudence in those cars.

Now, in what is really a very small car we were able to cruise well above the legal limit in Australia with a huge margin of braking and suspension capability in reserve, all the while sipping a mere four-point-two litres of diesel fuel per hundred kilometres.    It was also remarkable that of the vast number of cars that passed us during the day, some at speeds which were more than double ours, not one looked particularly pressed nor out of control, which perhaps was a good thing, as one does not really want to contemplate what happens to a passenger car that is out of control at two hundred and fifty kilometres per hour!

On that happy note, we are sitting in the town square in Bremen, in the north of Germany, sipping on an apple juice and nibbling on a small piece of steak, and revelling in the differences in everything we see compared to where we were when we woke this morning.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Time management.
Lagarde to Xures

The Port at Lagarde is getting quite busy at the moment so we offered to relocate the boat to Xures about two kilometres away while we choof off on our road trip.  We thought we'd just take ten minutes or so to fit the new door lock and be on our way pretty much first thing.

We soon discovered though, that we needed to modify the lock to make it fit more or less where the old one did and all should have been simple but we had to make a new shaft so that it fitted the new door thickness, and we still thought we'd get underway by  morning tea time

After that we found we had to make a new striker plate in stainless steel, then chop a mortice in the aluminium stile with the only available tool; a wood chisel.  Had that gone well we could have been on our way just before lunch with a bit of luck, but the mortice didn't look that flash so we made a new cover plate to tidy it up well enough, thinking we'd be right to go while everyone is at lunch.

Of course that was when we found the escutcheon plate didn't fit so an hour or so of filing it to fit would probably have delayed our departure till after lunch time.

By afternoon tea, the lock was finally fitted and working and looking like a bought one so with collective sighs of relief, we fired up Mr P and  began our small migration just after afternoon tea time.

It was a great feeling to be moving again even if it did mean saying farewell to Lagarde for a time, but somehow it was  an even greater feeling to have another ten minute job crossed off the list.


Friday, July 08, 2016

How things are done

Having made our road trip decision, we made a quick count of things left to do if we were to depart on Sunday, divided that number by by half, then by cunningly multiplying the result by zero and came up with a number which may have indicated we could head off any time with an absolutely clear conscience.

Mathematically at least, everything is done!  We are so organised that we could depart as soon as we’ve finished fitting the new door lock, a ten minute task which, because the new lock turned out to be exactly different to the old one, turned into a kind of a cross between a three dimensional jigsaw puzzle and an ultra marathon with tools.  With a bit of luck, tomorrow will see it sorted.

On the other hand, installing the wiring for the new emergency solar panels went swimmingly.  The temporary nature of the connection meant that no holes were required through the hull skin itself as we could install a plug discretely hidden just inside a window feeding the cable when needed through the overlapping pane.   Presumably that’s what the electrician in my favourite house in Lagarde was thinking with his pair of connections.   I have posted a larger photograph of his ingenuity before, and though things may be clearer when viewed at a larger size the detail bears repeating.  One connection disappears  through a closed shutter in much the same way as it will below one of our louvres when needed.  

The upper one is the most ingenious we think, being routed through a broken pane in the window.   I can’t imagine what he was thinking, but it’s pretty clear he didn’t use the time he saved mowing.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

A trip to town.

Why not, he thought, drive to Denmark?

With the inside of the boat now looking just a little tidier than a Lunêville bric-a-brac shop, that stupid throw away thought started to form little solid bits round the edges. The urgency in our shopping for provisions disappeared during our planned trip to town just after the lovely people at the hire car place confirmed that we could keep it for another couple of weeks at the same silly rate.

A quick call to Jørn and Birgit confirmed they would indeed be home were we to appear on their doorstep.

Even a call to a recently turned nonagenarian resulted in confirmation of sorts when we told her of our new plan:

“No Mum, Denmark.”
(Confused silence.)
“You know.  Denmark, it’s where Princess Mary lives.”
“Oh.  Tell her I really enjoy the photos of her children.”

That’s settled it then.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Neat as a pin.

It’s surprising just how much we can get done when we apply ourselves.  By “we” of course I am not referring to the other of us, who seems to get things done every day come hell or high water, but not to put too fine a point on it we're almost finished.  The boat is almost clean enough to go cruising or to pack it up ready for winter, whichever comes first. 

Bill’s been giving Mr Perkins a bit of a tickle too, and between us we may well have found the cause of that niggling little drippy bit that’s plagued the dear old thing (Mr P not Bill), for a year or two, which could well mean that we are having the most trouble-free beginning to a season that we’ve ever had.  Of course not actually moving anywhere helps in that regard.

We can’t be sure, though we think it may have been while one of us was hanging quite precariously upside down holding the boat to the dock while scrubbing around the waterline with the other, head and body mere inches from a watery mishap, that he was struck with a sudden flash of brilliance.   Flashes of brilliance of this sort after all are quite easy to have while inverted with one's head engorged with one’s entire body's supply of blood and while the sun is shining on a perfect day and the world is just tickety-boo.

Why not, he thought, drive to Denmark ?   


Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Alice's Adventures in Saarland

The more we travel, the more we have become convinced that the great "imagineers", Dali, Tati. et al, were not the great consumers of illicit substances, nor did they possess the extraordinary imagination that we may have supposed, but they were simply very astute observers of life.

How else can one explain an Australian couple living for the time being in France, sitting in a town square in Germany while taking a break from shopping in a Swedish furniture store, being tempted by ice-cream spaghetti while watching a football contest between Korean automobiles?

I suppose it could have been the mushrooms we had for breakfast, but that doesn’t explain the pictures.

Monday, July 04, 2016

The meaning of time
Void to Lagarde.

There’s work to be done and when one doesn’t have a chap to do it there comes a time when one must simply knuckle down and set to it.

Therefore after a long breakfast, we motored out in direction home to do exactly that.    By lunch we had our sleeves rolled up and were ready to get going, perhaps after a brief post-lunch nap.    We made a fair old dent in it all too, but enough is enough.    

Tomorrow, well our splendid evening wandering in Void is already but a distant blur, so we're a bit wary of working two days in a row.  What would that achieve?

Sunday, July 03, 2016

On becoming a Time Lord
Ay to Void.

There is a little by the wall covered in clocks in the little tourist shop in Void which  products of the region.   Each clock displays the current time in one of the major centres in the region.   Dozens of them hang, ticking away and since all the towns and villages are in the same time zone, all of them display the same time more or less .

As we sat over our late afternoon coffee it occurred to us that the small variation probably accounted for what happens in life: a few minutes late here, a few minutes early there, in the context of a year or a lifetime a few minutes really don’t matter.   In our case we are presently racing through July, and we haven't started our cruise.  Days are really only much bigger versions of seconds aren’t they?   Another day out of our calendar won’t be missed. No need to rush.  Yes please we will have another coffee after all since you've been kind enough to stay open for us on a Sunday.

Which is why, instead of heading straight for home post-haste on leaving Ay this morning, we set out to track down Grahame and Aileen at the end of thier long day’s cruise, so that we could spend yet another long and lovely night with friends catching up on last year’s news.  In our lifetime clock, we’re probably only running a few seconds behind.

Tomorrow, who knows, we may well break out the soap.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Heaven on a stick.
Lagarde to Ay.

When day dawned cool and bright the reality of having to attack the mess both outside and in dawned with it.  Drawing on our years of experience we decided the only way to deal with it was to get in the car and drive as far from it as we could go in a day.    

Thankfully, when we heard that Karen and George’s barge had broken down in the middle of the Champagne region and by the best of coincidence a short walk from the town of Ay where there happened to be a monster two day festival underway, our destination seemed pre-ordained.   Thus it was that we found ourselves a very safe few hundred kilometres away from the prospect of spending this fairest of days  surrounded by vile chemicals and scrubbing brushes.

Instead very splendid day indeed ensued.  I could go on and on about the scenic tour by electric Tuk Tuk across the vineyard ridges, past vines owned by pretty much all of the well known champagne houses, and how I wonder if somewhere in Cambodia some enterprising person is running tours in Citroen 2CV’s.  Of course I could talk at length about tasty lunches and champagne houses with open doors and Henri IV in whose honour the fete was being held, marionettes and art, and historic reenactments, the bands, the fireworks, the late night crepes and the walk back beside the canal.   I could talk about all of those things, but in truth my heart and mind were occupied throughout the day, and no I don’t mean on the amount of work waiting to be done back in Lagarde.

Few outside a very close circle indeed will be aware of a not quite all-consuming interest I have in street organs.  I actually have video clips and plans and half-made bits of several started projects tucked in dark corners in my workshop and store and one day, one day, when the time is right, will actually finish building at least one of the things.   Therefore, to discover a convention of sorts was underway amid this very festival was a pleasure almost too much to bear.   It seemed there was an organ playing on every corner in the village, with the entire gamut of construction and musical arranging skill or lack thereof on display, but no matter what the quality of instrument voice or arrangement, the impact on the crowd was always the same judging by the monster smiles all round.

Tomorrow perhaps, there will be more!  

Friday, July 01, 2016

Handy hints.
Lunéville to Lagarde

The excitement of returning to the boat is always tempered by the anticipation of discovering what damage the ravages of winter have wrought on it’s fragile little shell and all its precious contents.   Outside it’s always a bit reminiscent of a compost heap, having spent nine freezing months beneath a small stand of terribly messy trees, and even though it seems like only an hour or two since we last made new tie downs for our covers it’s time to start again, and there’s a strange truth that’s dawned about our life aboard: we seem to spend all of our cruising time thinking about and preparing to pack up next time.

We go to great lengths each year to minimise any impact of mildew and humidity and even during the times when the boat is being craned ashore, by carefully packing things in bags and stowing them securely.  By and large this works quite well although sadly this time there was no saving my panama hat, which having mysteriously escaped the plastic bag and clove oil treatment had transformed in our absence into some sort of writhing mass of black and green fur.

While in the normal course of events it’s all quite fun rediscovering the contents of of these neatly stacked bags, when all one wants to do is make a cup of tea, or change into one’s shorts to start attacking the mess outside, there’s absolutely no way of knowing where those things may be found.   We could spend hours making lists while we packed of course, but where would the fun be in that?

The lovely owners of the Hotel Pages in Lunéville understood this problem and addressed it in a most satisfying way we thought.  There, not quite in the centre of the mirror in our newly renovated hotel bathroom, but nonetheless exactly where one had to duck to see one’s own reflection was a little sticker which read “The hairdryer is located in the wardrobe.”   

Had there actually been a wardrobe in our room, that note may have been quite useful.
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